Beverage Cartons in Europe
ACE Throughout Europe
In 2020, ACE expanded its advocacy efforts in Iberia, Italy, the Nordics, and South Eastern Europe.
Throughout these regions, ACE advocates to increase beverage carton collection and recycling rates. To do so, ACE encourages Member States to recognise beverage cartons as a low-carbon and recyclable packaging solution that contributes to the goals of the European Green Deal, and to have this reflected in local legislation.
The beverage carton industry strongly believes that fibre from sustainable sources is a material that will play a key role in reducing the need for fossil-based resources, as well helping reach the target of climate neutrality by 2050 in all the EU countries.
Beverage cartons are recycled in the Czech Republic. In 2019, the recycling rate of beverage cartons was 25 %. There are two types of recycling in practice – a wet method to get the cellulose, and a dry method to separate the aluminium and polyethylene.
The recycling rate of beverage cartons is very low compared to the European average rate, which was 49% in 2018. Special collecting containers for beverage cartons are available, but the network is not as dense as (e.g.) the network for collecting containers for paper or plastics. At some locations, it is possible to collect beverage cartons together with paper or plastics.
The two biggest challenges are:
- Finalising the countries waste legislation that takes into account European recycling goals.
- Increasing the recycling rate to reach the European average and to meet the goals set by the EU. Recycling of beverage cartons is not publicly discussed as often as recycling of paper and plastics, so the Czech public is not aware enough of the situation.
Our goal is to cooperate with local stakeholders to ensure beverage cartons are recycled and advocate for an increased recycling rate.
 (Source: EKO-KOM, 2019, https://www.ekokom.cz/cz/ostatni/o-spolecnosti/system-eko-kom/vysledky-systemu/vyrocni-shrnuti).
Approximately 9000 tonnes of beverage cartons are placed on the Slovak market every year, of which only approximately 2000 tonnes are collected. There is one local processor of beverage cartons in Slovakia. The company recycles the collected volume from panel boards, which are used as building or insulating elements in construction. That company also started pulping and uses fibres to produce egg or electronics packaging.
In order to increase the recycling rate, the Ministry of Environment is considering a depositing scheme for beverage cartons. This packaging category would thus be added to glass, PET bottles and cans. The Ministry plans to carry out an analysis that would show exactly how this depositing might look like.
Recycling of beverage cartons is not a widely discussed topic in comparison to recycling of PET bottles, plastics as such or paper, and there is lack of effective and visible up-to-date education of the public.
Increasing the collection, as well as the subsequently recycling rate, is needed to reach the EU average. The main topic in this area is the newly adopted legislation concerning the depositing of PET bottles and cans that will start in Slovakia in 2023 at the earliest – a year later than originally planned. It is our objective that the industry’s presence is increased, and our voice is heard by these key stakeholders.
Beverage cartons are not recycled in Slovenia directly, but they are collected separately, together with other packaging (plastic and cans), as well as separated from the mixed municipal waste. Collected beverage cartons are sent abroad for final treatment. There is no official data on how many beverage cartons are collected as the packaging format is collected as “mixed packaging”.
Due to the low numbers of beverage cartons put on the Slovenian market each year, there is no specialised company dealing with beverage carton waste in Slovenia. Beverage carton waste is instead transported to Italy and other European countries. In recent years, some “internal material flows” have been established both within the companies and on the municipal level, which demand a high level of cooperation between various partners and interests.
When it comes to the general public, the measures mainly focus on raising the awareness of the importance of recycling and how to do it correctly – to consistently and strictly separate the waste in a way that allows recycling. Appropriate collection and treatment of the waste have also been important steps in increasing the beverage carton recycling – both demand a high level of cooperation among the partners.
In addition, among the companies, there is an increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of a circular economy. As such, the initiatives to “close the internal loop” have become more popular, both among companies and municipalities.
The percentage of recycled beverage carton packaging has been increasing in recent years (Slovenia currently recycles slightly over 30 % of this packaging waste, but there is still room for improvement. The current legislative framework does not allow for a higher recycling rate for beverage cartons as they are not recognised as a separate packaging format. When reporting the mass put on the market, producers report it under a paper/cardboard format, with the environmental tax currently treating them as paper/cardboard. Producers fulfilling their EPR can set the price for waste management of different packing formats with packaging waste management company themselves, due to a lack of government-issued guidelines. Of these companies, some recognise beverage cartons as an individual packaging format and some not (e.g. as mixed paper).
There is currently no central national database that would collect information on how much beverage carton was collected and recycled, as they fall under the category of “mixed packaging”.
 Internal data.
Beverage cartons are widely recycled in Italy. They have been collected and recycled since the early 2000s. There are two main models in place depending on infrastructural facilities:
- With paper and board 75% of total used beverage carton collection from households
- With metal and plastic 25%
Almost 80% of the population is covered by these collection systems.
The cardboard, the main component of beverage cartons, is recovered for recycling and, due to the quality of the fibres, it is a highly demanded raw material that is used for multiple applications such as boxes, bags, etc.
Numerous campaigns have been carried out in Italy aimed at authorities and citizens to increase their participation in collecting and recycling beverage cartons. We believe that this is a fundamental task that must continue to be promoted because the active involvement of the citizen is key to making recycling chain work.
Our sector not only works to ensure the recycling of beverage cartons but also has a vision and a firm commitment to reduce environmental impacts throughout the entire life cycle of the product.
Beverage cartons are widely recycled in Spain and Portugal. They have been collected for recycling through the yellow containers for the past 20 years. The curbside collection system covers the whole country, so every citizen has the possibility to recycle their beverage cartons.
Campaigns have been carried out in Spain and Portugal aimed at citizens to stimulate their participation in selective collection and recycling. We believe that this is a fundamental task that must continue to be promoted because the active involvement of the citizen is key to making the recycling chain work.
For this reason, the aim of bringing recycling closer to the citizen has led to selective collection at home through yellow containers being complemented with out-of-home selective collections, such as at concerts and sporting events. This has allowed the integration of recycling in our daily lives and getting more and more beverage cartons recovered.
In the Nordic region, beverage cartons are collected together with paper and board in the region. The collection rate is, in general, high in all countries.
Most of the collected beverage cartons in the Nordic region is collected and sent to Fiskeby Board in Norrköping in Sweden. Here, the beverage cartons are cut apart and fed together with large amounts of water where the fibres, plastic and aluminium is separated. The fibres then turn into new paper or cardboard.
The challenge in the region is to make sure more beverage cartons are collected and recycled, and to make sure that all materials in the beverage carton, the plastics and aluminium, are recycled to a larger extent.
For the beverage carton industry, it is crucial that all countries in the Nordic region have a separate collection target for beverage cartons. We believe that setting a target would increase the amount of beverage cartons collected, and that fewer beverage cartons would end up in incineration plants for energy production.
For additional resources please visit:
- Norway: https://www.grontpunkt.no/gjenvinning/drikkekartong/
- Sweden: https://www.ftiab.se/138.html and http://www.fiskeby.com/?lang=en
- Finland: https://rinkiin.fi/for-households/recycling-packaging-in-finland/
- Denmark: https://d1pdf7a38rpjk8.cloudfront.net/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Footer/Publikationer/Udgivelser/waste_folder_low_spread.pdf